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Brooke Walker, Studio 5It's difficult to start a new school year under any circumstances, and for children suffering from mental illness, the pressure can be severe. Often the lack of school supplies and new clothing become painful reminders of how different these children feel from their peers. A local organization is trying to help a forgotten group of kids.
It's estimated one in 17 American adults suffer from a serious mental illness. In fact, mental illness is the leading cause of disability in our country. Because of the stigma often attached to mental illness, many of those afflicted don't seek assistance from traditional charitable organizations. The families quietly endure the invisible effects, and in essence, their children become forgotten.
Ivie Spencer said, "There were no organizations that particularly helped the mentally ill families with their children."
Eighty-five-year old Spencer started PJ's Forgotten Children to the help families through the financial hardships of mental illness. The group works in partnership with NAMI Utah and Valley Mental Health in order to reach families with the greatest need.
After recognizing a tremendous need for basic school supplies, PJ's Forgotten Children started a back-to-school program in 1997. "That was strictly something that I had wanted to do," she said.
The first year they received donations of pens and pencils, 10-cent notebooks and erasers. Ivie approached a local retailer about backpacks. She tells KSL, "He said, 'They're not the latest style.' And I said, 'That doesn't matter. Our kids aren't looking for style. They're looking for a backpack."
That first year they were able to help nearly 100 students. Last year the number of students helped was up to 500. This year the goal is to help a thousand children.
President of the organization, Kathy Pettey, says, "We really try to give these children anything we can to make them a success."
P.J.'s Forgotten Children has been helping families through the financial hardships of mental illness since 1986.